Mountain Sun

Mountain Sun

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fareed Zakaria's Call for US Intervention in Libya

"If there is one lesson for U.S. foreign policy from the past 10 years" Fareed Zakaria recently wrote, "it is surely that military intervention can seem simple but is in fact a complex affair with the potential for unintended consequences."

Zakaria's article, "The Libyan Conundrum" appears to take precious little time to consider those possible consequences.   Instead, he uses the essay to urge Obama to take aggressive action. Left on its own, Zakaria argued, the Libyan opposition might well turn into an al Qaeda "area of strength."  His reasoning behind why Libya would be more or less vulnerable to al Qaeda influence than a host of other relevant countries including Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, Yemen or Bahrain is not provided.

Zakaria should be familiar with unintended consequences. Here he is in 2003, just prior to the Iraq War, in an article sometimes cited as evidence of his journalistic "willingness to call out our government's missteps in Iraq:"

"In one respect, I believe that the Bush administration is right: this war will look better when it is over. The military campaign will probably be less difficult than many of Washington's opponents think. Most important, it will reveal the nature of Saddam's barbarous regime. Prisoners and political dissidents will tell stories of atrocities. Horrific documents will come to light. Weapons of mass destruction will be found. If done right, years from now people will remember above all that America helped rid Iraq of a totalitarian dictator."

All the above indeed did come to light, except for the WMDs of course.  But Zakaria expected those revelations to stem from Sadam's abuses.  Instead, they were our own, and are now too numerous, persistent and diverse to quantify.  Indeed, Nir Rosen recently guessed that the mountains of dead from our Iraq "missteps" will likely never be adequately documented.

But how about Zakaria's  missteps?  If the US government can be fairly accused of  screwing up Iraq beyond all recognition (which few would dispute), how can we possibly decouple that same damning assessment from journalists like Fareed Zakaria, who justified and approved that war?  And above all else, how can the American public and American policymakers continue to listen to pundits like Zakaria without remembering how badly wrong they were last time, just a few short years ago?


Probably the first significant unintended consequence:

CAIRO - The Arab League on Sunday criticized Western military strikes on Libya, a week after urging the United Nations to slap a no-fly zone on the oil-rich North African state.
"What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone and what we want is the protection of civilians and not bombing other civilians," Arab League secretary general Amr Mussa told reporters.

If the US military intervention in Libya was supposed to help close old wounds between the US and Arab countries (as Zakaria claims), today's negative comment by the Arab League is not the best start.

UPDATE 3/22/11

Another account of an unintended (but entirely predictable) event of the kind that quickly turns American liberating heroes into villains in the view of those nations we invade: 

During a helicopter rescue of one of the pilots that crashed in in Libya, U.S. Marines shot and injured six villagers, according to The Telegraph's Rob Crilly.  Crilly, who broke the news of a crashed plane, said six civilians were injured in a botched rescue of the second pilot. There are no details yet as to why shots were fired.

Six more unintended consequences that Fareed Zakaria can tuck under his belt. 


  1. You are taking that section from Fareed Zakaris's article completely out of context. Your argument is based around the fact that one section in the article in which he seems to be extolling the virtues of the Bush Administration and it's decision making processes. The fact is that the rest of the article is critical of the administrations lack of popular support here and abroad as well as the administrations inability to form a viable coalition. He suggests in the article that even with a quick and just victory over Saddam that attitudes toward America from the populaces in many countries would continue tp trend increasingly negative. If you had read the whole article then you would understand that overall his analysis is astute and sound. Instead, to make your argument you are cherry picking your quotes in order to prove your point of hypocrisy is proven.

  2. Thanks for your comment. While sentence fragments or perhaps even whole sentences can be taken and used out of context, it is pretty difficult to claim that an entire paragraph is "taken out of context". It is a complete, unedited paragraph. It says what it says.

    Two points remain: first, Zakaria justified the Iraq war in this "critical" essay ("It would seem, on the face of it, a justifiable use of military force". He does not, anywhere in the essay, come back and write "but in fact it is not a justifiable use of force". Second, Zakaria was completely and utterly wrong in his prediction that the Iraq nightmare would "look better when it is over". That completely blown call on Iraq a few years ago should be factored in, when readers see Zakaria calling for military intervention in Libya.